May 31, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Carney talks DOMA ruling, ExxonMobil vote

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday the administration won’t revisit the idea of issuing an executive order barring anti-gay job bias in the wake of the failed vote among ExxonMobil shareholders to adopt a non-discrimination policy for LGBT workers.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney said the White House would continue to pursue legislation — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — to institute non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers as opposed to issuing an executive order that changes policies at U.S. contractors like ExxonMobil.

“We don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time,” Carney said. “We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.”

Congress is unlikely to pass ENDA while Republicans remain in the control of the House. Last month, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the Washington Blade in response to a question on ENDA that he hasn’t “thought much about it.”

Asked how the right avenue to pursue at this time can be legislation while Republicans are in control of the House, Carney replied, “Well, because it’s the right thing to do.”

On Wednesday, ExxonMobil stockholders voted down a resolution proposed by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to include LGBT protections as part of the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy. According to the company, 20.6 percent of shareholders approved the resolution. Still, the board can adopt the policy without action from the shareholders.

An executive order requiring federal contractors to institute LGBT non-discrimination policies would affect ExxonMobil. The company has won more than $1 billion in federal contractors in the past decade. In the last fiscal year, the company claimed $158 million in federal contracts.

But in April, the administration announced it won’t issue the executive order at this time — a line that Carney maintained during the Thursday news conference.

Carney said the day after during an April news conference that the administration is committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community — from major corporations to contractors to small business — and raising public awareness about the human and financial costs of discrimination in the work force.”

Asked by the Blade whether he would follow up on these words and call on ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive policy on its own accord, Carney reaffirmed his earlier position, but wouldn’t go into details about conversations.

“Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today,” Carney said. “And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.”

Asked to clarify whether any conversations have taken place between the White House and ExxonMobil, Carney said that communications have taken place, but he wouldn’t go into details about talks with specific business leaders.

“I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had,” Carney said. “Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the president supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Carney’s remarks on ExxonMobil are “ambiguous,” but said he chooses to interpret them to mean the White House wants the company to adopt the non-discrimination policy — in addition to offering domestic partner benefits, which the company doesn’t provide.

“The question, then, is will the White House put some action behind Jay Carney’s words?” Almeida said. “Will President Obama use his bully pulpit to publicly call on ExxonMobil to ban discrimination and offer equal benefits to LGBT employees? … I urge White House staff to do more, especially during the upcoming Pride Month, to promote LGBT Americans’ freedom to work without discrimination.”

Almeida renewed his call for the administration to issue the executive order barring LGBT job bias so that all federal contractors like ExxonMobil will have to adopt non-discrimination policies.

“I urge the White House staff to do more to move the ball forward so that LGBT Americans will have the freedom to work without discrimination at ExxonMobil and all other companies that profit from taxpayer-funded contracts,” Almeida said. “The president should fulfill his campaign promise from four years ago and sign the executive order right away.”

Questions also came up during the news conference about the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act earlier in the day. The Associated Press asked Carney whether he wants to see the Supreme Court take up the case.

Carney explained the Obama administration’s belief that DOMA is unconstitutional and noted it is no longer defending the law in court, but deferred further questions to the Justice Department.

“That’s the position the president has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice,” Carney said. “With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department. But there’s no question that this is in concert with the president’s views.”

Carney noted that Justice Department attorneys have participated in litigation.

“The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the Attorney General have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional,” Carney said. “But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive.”

In a follow-up question from the Blade on whether the administration wants to see a vote to repeal DOMA in the Democratic-controlled Seante, Carney said he’s not aware of any talks of that nature.

“I haven’t heard that discussed,” Carney said. “The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.”

A partial transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on ExxonMobil and DOMA follows:

Associated Press: The First Circuit ruled this morning on the Defense of Marriage Act. Can you comment on the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional? Would you like to see the Supreme Court take this case? And if so, would this administration be actively arguing for the overturning of a law signed by a previous Democratic President?

Jay Carney: Well, Anne, as you know, the President has concluded that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. So has his attorney general. And for that reason, the administration will no longer defend equal protection challenges against it in the courts. That’s the position the President has held for some time now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice.

With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department.  But there’s no question that this is in concert with the President’s views.

Associated Press: But the question, though, is whether you would take your current somewhat passive position that you will not defend it and turn that around and actively argue for it — to overturn the law.

Carney: The Department of Justice participated in this very litigation in the First Circuit, consistent with the position that the president and the attorney general have articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of DOMA is constitutional. I can’t predict what the next steps will be in handling cases of this nature. I would refer you to the Department of Justice. But I wouldn’t necessarily call that passive. …

Washington Blade: Jay, I want to ask you about two topics. First of all, I want to follow up on the DOMA ruling from today. The president campaigned on the repeal of DOMA. He has endorsed legislation to meet that goal. He has stop defending the law in court. He has sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against that law in court.

Carney: Well said. (Laughter.) Yes?

Blade: But does the administration see value in holding a vote in the Democratically controlled Senate on repealing the law as a symbolic stand against that statute?

Carney: Well, I haven’t heard that discussed. The president’s position is clear. The actions taken as a result of that position are clear. Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific litigation is clear. But I don’t have anything for you on that proposal, which I have not heard.

Blade: The other thing I want to ask you about is, there was a vote yesterday among Exxon Mobil shareholders to include LGBT non-discrimination protections for its more than 80,000 workers that work at the corporation. The shareholders voted down that proposal but it’s still possible for the board to accept it without the shareholders taking action. 

Back in April, when you talked about the executive order not happening at this time, you said that the administration was committed to “directly engaging with and educating all sectors of the business community from major corporations to contractors to small businesses, and raising public awareness about the human and financial cost of discrimination in the workforce.”

Following up with these words, will the administration call on Exxon Mobil to adopt that non-discrimination policy?

Carney: Well, that is certainly our position, and what I said in April holds true today.  And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking, continue to take place — have taken place and will continue to take place. I don’t have anything specifically for you on this case and this vote, which just took place. But broadly, yes, that’s our position.

Blade: Has the administration communicated — any communications at all with Exxon Mobil?

Carney: Again, I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations have [been] had.  Our position and views on this are well known. That’s why the President supports ENDA, a legislative solution to this discrimination. And those conversations will continue. I just don’t have anything to report to you on specific conversations with specific companies or business leaders.

Blade: In the past decade, Exxon Mobil has taken more than $1 billion in federal contracts.  In the wake of this vote, will the administration revisit the idea of issuing that executive order, barring federal contractors from taking money if they don’t have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Carney: Well, we don’t expect that an EO of that nature will be issued at this time. We are working, as I’ve said in the past, with Congress. We support legislation that has been introduced, and we will continue to work to build support for it. We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue to pursue at this time.

Blade: How can the legislative avenue be right at this time when Republicans control Congress?  How will that legislation get through the Republican-controlled Congress?

Carney: Well, because it’s the right thing to do.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • This is one more new step to equality. Question is whether prop 8 or DOMA gets to the Supreme court and will they see them together as one case, or two different cases or none at all?

    ————–
    Can you sign the petition I created, and pass it around to as many people as you can? Specifically can you post it on your facebook page?: [URL REMOVED]

    There is even a facebook page: [URL REMOVED]

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin